When Busy Women Get Angry
Busy women don’t usually acknowledge anger until it gets in the way. All of a sudden we blow up, and we just can’t handle it. Or, we start getting really cranky and impatient. We get angry because some situation doesn’t meet our expectations, and we become disappointed and hurt. Some of us are also conditioned to think that we shouldn’t get angry; it’s not nice, it’s not feminine, and we really should keep our cool.
But, we also know deep down that anger comes up whether or not we want it to. We may not be familiar or comfortable expressing anger. So we get confused and afraid, and we avoid or push our anger away when it comes up. This can be extremely damaging to our health - physically and mentally - if we hold in the anger and then it leaks out unintentionally.
Mindfulness brings a radically different approach to anger. It sees anger as a natural phenomenon. Like any emotion, it arises and passes away on its own. Like any emotion, it gives us data. Anger lets us know that something is wrong. There’s a boo-boo, and now we have an opportunity to take care of ourselves, put a band-aid over that boo-boo.
When we acknowledge our anger mindfully, it is an act of self-care and self-love. First, we pause and notice the feeling of anger - notice what kind of thoughts come up. Notice how the body responds when angry - does it get tight and contracted? How about the breath - does it start to run short and fast? If we notice ourselves saying things like “F*! I hate this. I can’t believe this happened! Why would they do that?!” or self-criticisms like “I can’t believe I did that? What was I thinking? How stupid!”, we can take a few deep breaths with our whole body. When the mind is agitated with these harmful thoughts, the body is likely to be tight. When we give our body some deep breaths, the body has a chance to soften and relax. When the body softens, then the mind has a chance to soften and relax too. We can note that there is anger without getting all tangled up with the negative messages.
Instead of more harmful messages because we don’t like our anger, we can begin to accept this emotional state, recognize its tightness and pain, and say “Oh, honey. what happened? Are you okay? What do you need?” "Here, let’s take a break. You just got hurt, and let’s see where is the boo-boo?” "How about a cup of tea or a hug? Or, maybe a walk in the park? Whatever you need, I am here for you.” With this kind of loving attention, anger will dissolve naturally on its own.
I was one of those busy working moms that cursed at traffic and myself when something didn't go my way. Then I started practicing mindfulness by pausing whenever I heard myself swear. The swear words became my bells of mindfulness, reminding me that I got hurt and I needed some tender loving care. All I had to do was remember to pause, breath, and relax; and, whisper some sweet nothings to soothe my heart. At some point, words like “Oh honey...” became my automatic response to the swear words. This sweet salve really works to heal, and it is self-compassion in action.
Mindfulness is the key to transforming our response to anger. It’s an attitude and consciousness shift that comes with the simple practice of remembering to be kind and aware in the present moment. It is simple but needs to be practiced again and again because most of us are not wired to respond to anger that way. The good news is we can rewire our brain. Every time anger comes up, we have another chance to rewire. Eventually, we learn to pause, breathe, relax, and care as if it were our second nature. We learn to befriend our anger, and as anger relaxes around us, we will be able to see what’s really going on. When we are able to see clearly, we will know what to do and what to say. We become wiser, and that is the priceless gift of mindfulness practice.